Friday, April 9, 2010





The flight over to Berlin wasn't that long, really. Or that bad, for an 8 hour flight. Great row mates. Arrived at the airport and was very thankful to be able to speak the language enough to find my way to the right bus, and then to the wrong U-bahn station, but with help of strangers find my way to my hotel from the Siegessäule. You know, that mysterious angel-topped monument featured in Wim Wenders' film Wings of Desire. Oh. you haven't seen it? I need to see it again. It might help explain my massive disorientation after I dropped off my luggage at the hotel to explore the city while my room was being prepared. The worst part about those trans-Atlantic flights is arriving in the morning and not being able to check in for another 6 hours. The time in between is true limbo. At 10 am my body was still in motion: 500 mile an hour, a few miles up in the air.

Armed with a week's transit pass, I hopped on an S-bahn train headed East and trolled a newly-fashionable, previously-East Berlin neighborhood for a cafe to sit, read, draw. I wandered in and out of packed bistros, too chilly to want to settle in at a table outside, although others sitting in the cool April morning were wrapped in red blankets. Across the neighborhood, chilly patrons at bistros and cafes were wrapped in red blankeys. Did the restaurant association get together and purchase these blankets in bulk?

I found a bakery with high bar stools and little tables, and settled in with my book, a beautifully strong black Cafe Americano, and a tasty smoked salmon sandwich. I ate and drank well but began to feel faint and jumped down to get some fresh air to wake up. I headed out into the cool afternoon, still faint. My legs felt weightless. My breath was shallow. I started down the street to a park with a memorial to The Wall but felt increasingly disoriented. I could speak and understand the language and yet it was foreign. Another part of my brain. Another part of my life. I was feely disturbingly disconnected, and verging on panic. That cycle of disturbance now disturbing. I scurried back to the S-bahn station and onto a train heading back to the stop outside my hotel. I felt hot. Was it the warm sweater? Was the train heated? Was I beginning to come unglued? Jet lag is not just a physical experience. As a mother of young child, it is some profound almost instinctive sense of drastic disconnection from my life, my family, the life I created with my family, my child. While at the same time by brain is reconnecting to some dormant segment that can speak and understand this foreign language and recognizes the landmarks of this distant city, which I've visited twice in my other life as a single independent person—when nobody really "needed" me. If I disappeared, what would the implications have been? A dozen years ago? This morning?

Nobody knew where I was. Nobody knew where I belonged. What if something were to suddenly happen? That's what was spinning in my head as theh S-bahn traveled West from Hauptbahnhof. I pulled out my i-pod and turned on some familiar fiddle tunes: Billy in the Lowground Instantly, I could feel my breathing deepen. My mind settle down. By the time I made it back to my hotel, my room was ready. I checked in, called Don and Henry through my Skype number and the pieces reconciled. Does that make any sense? It does to me. It's a werid case of jet lag.

After a nap, I took the train back to the Museum Insel. Spent a splendid few hours in the Neue Museum, studying Neanderthal tools, visiting the eerie bust of Nefertiti, racing through Scythian bronze and copper reliquaries. Carrying on long conversations with strangers. The image with this posts was taken by a couple whose photo I had just taken. In the background is the Alte National Gallerie. I'll go back tomorrow, perhaps.

I'll go back to Alain Botton's Art of Travel. What a comfort to me today.

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